Volunteer teams constructed this new home after a wildfire swept through the town of White Swan.
By Susan Kim*
Sept. 18, 2012—A disaster is never small to those in its path. In the Pacific Northwest, where residents often live in rural areas or small towns, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is helping to respond to disasters that don't make the headlines, but nonetheless leave serious needs.
Two months ago, a fierce storm barreled through the state of Washington, bringing hurricane-force winds, flash flooding, and golf-ball-size hail. Ferry County—which includes The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation—was hardest hit. Ferry County residents mourned the death of one person; 14 others were injured. Eleven homes were destroyed, while 30 more were damaged.
UMCOR issued an emergency grant of $10,000 to the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference to help storm survivors on their road to long-term recovery.
United Methodists are working ecumenically as part of the Ferry County Wind-Storm Long-Term Recovery committee, reported the Rev. Dr. George Abrams, disaster response coordinator for the Pacific Northwest Conference.
Often in the Pacific Northwest, remote counties and villages suffer from small disasters that don't get federal disaster declarations, so people have fewer resources available during long-term recovery. The town of White Swan, for example, was in the path of a wildfire in February 2011 that destroyed 20 homes, most of them the residences of Yakama nation members.
Fire cleanup was complicated by the fact that many of the homes were built in the era when asbestos was commonly used in insulation, drywall, and floors.
UMCOR's support has helped fire survivors get back on their feet, Abrams said. “Volunteer teams have already rebuilt one house, and they just put the shingles on another home last Saturday,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Ferry County, the storm survivors most in need are those without insurance, said Katie Crane, a case manager who has been working with individuals and families. “Some of them are living on less than $1,000 a month,” she indicated.
Many storm survivors in the county also have roof damage, and are using tarps to protect their homes while they try to save enough money for repairs,” she said. “Many vehicles and motor homes were damaged or destroyed. Many, many people have downed trees in yards, across fence lines and pastures with no funds for removal.”
Mental health needs are also coming to the forefront, Crane added. “Because some people narrowly escaped death, there are those experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder when a strong wind occurs,” she said.
No disaster is small to those affected. Help people in the Pacific Northwest and nationwide recover by giving to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670 Or simply use your cell phone. Text RESPONSE to 80888 to give a $10 donation to provide immediate relief to those affected.
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.